Detox can mean many different things to different people. Through a functional medicine lens, it has a much more specific approach. Detox also has mental-emotional-spiritual aspects as well. It is only natural that when we start changing our eating, we change our living. These things can be cultivated together though detox and looking at many aspects at our lives together. Humans are both biological and cultural, these networks are intertwined and affect each other.
Our whole self can be thought of a matrix of personal lifestyle factors including Sleep & Relaxation, Exercise & Movement, Nutrition, Stress, and Relationships.
Sleep & Relaxation
Sleep is in the limelight these days for good reason. It plays a major role in our day-to-day choices, eating behaviors, cravings, how we think and concentrate. All too often we fall short on this part of the matrix, and a majority don’t get enough. In this day in age, we are often bound by crammed schedules. It can be more difficult to find areas of stillness in our day, which is essential to our well-being. It is critical for rejuvenation and repair processes in the body. It is also critical in reduction in inflammation that affects so many aspects of our bodies. Increases sleep hygiene is a personal process and different methods and techniques work better for different people.
Exercise & Movement
Exercise and movement are important for detoxification because it improves circulation of toxins, nutrients, and oxygen. Exercise also induces perspiration which facilitates the release of toxins. Exercise has been found to improve mood through the release of endorphins. It also enhances various body systems such as our cognitive function, immune system, and gastrointestinal function. The beautiful thing is it doesn’t really matter what type of exercise you as long as you do something to get yourself moving. When you find something that you enjoy to get your body moving you will be much more likely to stick with it. Forms of exercise can generally be grouped into “yin” and “yang” categories. Yin movements are more relaxing while yang activities are more vigorous and increase heartrate. Yin activities are great during times when you are stressed out of feeling run down and help you get into flow and still get movement into your day. Yang activities are great for people who feel energized and enjoy the feeling that vigorous movement brings. You can opt for different styles of movement depending on how your feeling day to day.
Food is integral in detoxification. The first approach is cleaning out you diet of unnecessary junk and hitting the reset button. Reduce or remove the following: Caffeine & alcohol, artificial sweeteners, fats and sugars, allergenic foods, and environmental toxins. Phytonutrients are found food with bright color. Phytonutrients are chemicals and compounds that are produced by plants that have beneficial properties to our health. Small amounts of many diverse phytonutrients that act as a team is more beneficial than large doses of one specific nutrients, found in supplementation. A technique to get phytonutrients is to include plant foods of all different colors. Many people benefit from working with a specific coach help the determine which foods cause sensitivity for the individual. Working with a health coach can also help you initiate, navigate, and guide you through specific food plans for you.
This toxin ties into every other aspect of this matrix. It is the most common primary complaint among patients and if not the first, it falls within clients top three. Stress comes from all angles of our lives including work, illness, relationships, jobs, financials, work-life balance, children, ect. A certain level of stress has become the norm and accepted in our culture. This plays an impact on our ability to heal. This is incredibly important because stress is one of main contributors to chronic disease. Stress goes far beyond affecting our mood, it impacts out physiology and psychology. This can have major impacts on our behaviors, eating habits, and lifestyle choices.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we will ever get rid of stress, but we can become much more efficient at managing it. Some common toxic habits that we see utilized to cope with stress may be stimulants in the AM (caffeine), depressants in the PM (alcohol), comfort/sugary foods throughout the day, and over-working or oversleeping.
When we examine stress, it is often one of the more difficult to control because we don’t just quit our jobs on a whim or end long term relationships in our lives, and conversely this would lead to a whole new set of stressors. Working with stress is often dealing with our perception of the stress what is within our locus of control.
Our physical environment is one way that we can filter our stress. We can control our personal space, try to get fresh air regularly, spend time in nature, decorate with soothing colors, and expose ourselves to calming visual arts and soothing music. Studies have shown that getting out in nature can have very positive impacts on our health, especially for our cardiovascular system.
One key thing to observe when looking at our relationships is whether we feel supported or not in our health behaviors. This can deal with our spouse/partner is supportive of changes you are trying to make or if you have friends that can keep you accountable have meaningful conversations with. Lack of social support and conflict has been shown to lead to higher inflammatory markers. Our happiness is also connected to the happiness of the other around us. Meaningful relationships can be cultivated by seeking out like minded individuals and even joining a support group of people with similar goals.
It is also important to pay close attention to what activities and people drain you and which ones give you energy. This may help you determine what area need more attention and which you may need to do less of.